The 1955 Chrysler C-300-The Beautiful Brutes
by Don Levy
If ever a nickname was appropriate, the one writer Karl Ludvigsen came up with was perfect when he called the 1955 Chrysler C-300 the "Beautiful Brutes". This car was truly a brute in looks as well as power and was the car that really kicked off the horsepower race when it came out with the first 300 horsepower engine in a production car. The C-300 could be considered to be the first muscle car but it didn't fit the popular description of what was then called a super car. To be a super car the engine had to be the biggest one in the smallest body. The engine was the biggest by far but the body was also one of the largest, so it wasn't a super car even though it ran like one.
In 1951 Chrysler came out with a Hemispherical Combustion Chamber engine with 180HP which caused quite a stir and gave an indication of the horsepower race that was going to heat up over the next 20 years. If people were surprised in 1951, then they were flabbergasted when the horsepower was raised to 300HP in just 4 years.
The 1955 C-300 was called the "Forward Look" styling. Even though it was designed by Virgil Exner, people joked that it was designed as much from the Chrysler parts bin as it was by him. The front clip along with the grill was taken from the 1955 Imperial with the midsection from the New Yorker model and the Windsor contributed the rear quarter. Exner was able to put all these together along with base model Chrysler bumpers and ended up with a design that turned out to be one of the classic body styles of all time. While it was a stripped down model with no back up lights or outside mirrors it did come with tan leather upholstery and the options included power seats and windows, tinted glass, radio and heater and stylish Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels.
Chrysler had good success in NASCAR (National Association Of Stock Car Automobile Racing) racing with their Hemi engines in the years leading up to 1955. They were 2nd in NASCAR in 1953 and won the championship in 1954. Even though the Chryslers more than held their own it wasn't until 1955 when it appears they decided to dominate NASCAR by basically building the C-300 especially for NASCAR racing. With a Firepower Hemi engine putting out 300 horses from 331 cubic inches it was the hottest production car in America. They won 22 out of the 40 races in 1955 in one of the most dominant racing displays ever.
Although the Chrysler C-300 only sold 1,725 cars in 1955 they packed the showrooms with people wanting to see the monster that was setting speed records from the drag strip to the Bonneville Salt Flats and all types of speed events in between. Even though it was over 50 years ago I remember when the 1955 cars hit the showrooms like it was yesterday. My buddies and I were like kids in a candy store as we went from showroom to showroom. That was the year Chevrolet debuted their new V-8 and they also had the newly designed Corvette. Ford brought out their new Thunderbird that year. Both Oldsmobile and Buick were redesigned and their super cars both got power increases.
All of these and several other were exciting but the one that topped them all was the Chrysler C-300. It was the first American production car to have an engine with 300 HP and even though it weighed over 4,000 pounds the statistics were pretty amazing. It would do 0-60 MPH in less than 10 seconds and had a top end of over 130 MPH depending on which one of the 3 optional rear axle ratios were used.
Due to it being an automotive icon and with low sales numbers the 1955 Chrysler C-300's bring some eye popping prices when they can be found. One sold earlier this year for $181,500. Not a bad increase from the $4,000 they cost new, which was pretty pricey back in 1955. If you are a Mopar Collector this would be the crown jewel in your collection.
Don Levy is a retired mortgage broker whose hobby is article writing, especially about classic cars. Check out his web site at Classic Cars For info on curing many common ailments using natural cures & household products click on Natural Cures
Article Source: The 1955 Chrysler C-300-The Beautiful Brutes March 25, 2009
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